But seeing the frustration and fatigue in my son while talking about all of the recent shootings in America (Kansas City, upstate New York, Austin, Charlotte, Louisville, Dadeville) helped me see I need to press on trying to lower the temperature in our debates over guns and to increase conversation, mutual understanding, and empathy across our differences.
I apologize in advance for my low energy in this video. I know they say the camera sucks your energy so you need to go 125%, but I’ve been going at 150% for a week straight and I’m tired.
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I am Asian-American (half Japanese-American on my father’s side) and grew up in Half Moon Bay, California. The coincidence of this with the mass murder of 7 people in Half Moon Bay by an Asian man led to a conversation recently with Randy Miyan on the Liberal Gun Owners podcast.
My appearance was broken into two separate segments (S2G35 and S2G36) and followed two segments with fellow half-Japanese-American (but also half-Chinese American) Chris Cheng (S2G33 and S2G34).
Although I am not an expert in mass violence, I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on issues that hit very close to home and do so from a very personal perspective at times.
Of course, I typically turn to statistics before getting personal on these issues. The following is the documentation for some of the empirical claims I make during these episodes.
I have been writing quite a bit lately about negative outcomes with firearms for my book on American gun culture. As I’ve stated repeatedly state on this blog and in various publications over the years, unlike most scholars studying guns, my starting point is not the deviance of guns but their normality.
But people care about negative outcomes with firearms such as homicide and suicide, including myself and other gun owners, so here we are.
I recently posted about the importance of considering absolute risk compared to relative risk when looking at negative outcomes with firearms. I mentioned, for example, that the relative risk of dying from an unintentional firearms injury in the U.S. is TWICE that of Italy. But the absolute risk of dying from an unintentional firearms injury in Italy is 1 in a million and in the U.S. it is 2 in a million, so some perspective is in order not to spark irrational fear.
In retrospect, the title “absolute vs. relative risk” was not the best, especially for someone who is constantly preaching the importance of both/and in understanding guns and gun culture rather than either/or. We need to understand BOTH relative risk AND absolute risk.
One of my top former students at Wake Forest read the absolute/relative risk post on my Facebook page and commented:
I think these numbers would be more meaningful too compared to some baseline that people can relate to more easily – say, the risk of being injured in a car accident.
I don’t disagree, though this does take us back to the question of relative risk.
Today I want to see what these data tell us about the problem of suicide in the United States relative to our peer nations. Are we exceptional here, too?
As with my examination of homicide, this is admittedly a very simplistic analysis. But for my work, it is important to be able to say something about the big picture of negative outcomes with firearms in the United States as a starting point for more sophisticated analyses.
America is exceptional in the world for the number of firearms legally owned by its citizens, as well as the laws and culture that support widespread civilian gun ownership. Understanding this has been central to my work over the years.
The Dana Carvey SNL character “Grumpy Old Man” has always been a favorite of mine, especially the tagline, “I like things the way they used to be.”
Now, I am not a full-on Luddite when it comes to technology. I got my first computer (Apple IIc) when I went to college in 1986. Got my first laptop (a Grid) in 1988. I was sending emails over our IBM DEC Vax system when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit the SF Bay area in 1989. And so on.
But I am not typically an early adopter of new technology. So, I wasn’t very interested in AI chatbots when they began to hit the news this spring. But when Google offered me the opportunity to try their Bard AI chatbot, I signed up.
When I got access to it recently, I honestly didn’t know what I would use it for. But it helpfully gave some ideas, including offering to help sketch out a blog post. Naturally, I thought of what I might want to have it outline.